New From the Museum: The Seashell Collector

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In The Museum Shop, you can now pick up the latest literary offering from the American Museum of Natural History and Sterling Signature: The Seashell Collector.

This boxed set features a booklet by Ilya Temkin, a former postdoctoral researcher at the Museum, which contains some of the most beautiful images of seashells from texts held in the Museum’s Rare Book Collection, along with lessons about the creatures who call these shells home and background about how shells are formed and the role they have played throughout human history, as decoration, currency, and much more. Here are just a few of the species you’ll be introduced to:

Nautilus pompilius ©AMNH/C.Chesek 

Nautilus pompilius


One of the most celebrated shells is that of the chambered nautilus (Nautilus pompilius). The chambers in this shell fill with gas and water that the nautilus can regulate using a piece of tissue known as the siphuncle. By changing the ratio of water to gas in these chambers, the nautilus changes its buoyancy, letting it travel between deep and shallow waters.

And to learn more about these remarkable mollusks, visit the Life at the Limits exhibition at the Museum right now, where you can see live nautilus on display.

Hexaplex trunculus ©AMNH/C/Chesek

Hexaplex trunculus


The banded-dye murex (Hexaplex trunculus) is common in shallow waters around the Mediterranean and northeast Africa. A secretion from this snail’s hypobranchial gland was used as a highly valued indigo dye in ancient cultures. This illustration is from one of the first published scientific treatises on mollusks. 

Pecten maximus ©AMNH/C.Chesek

Pecten maximus


The great Atlantic scallop (Pecten maximus), is the largest scallop in Europe, and evades predators by clapping its valves together to produce a jet of water that moves it out of harm’s way. You may also recognize it from Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus—it’s the shell the Roman goddess is riding out of the sea in that iconic painting.

Conus textile ©AMNH/C.Chesek 

Conus textile


Many shells are beautiful, but the creatures that reside in them can be dangerous. That’s the case with the textile cones (Conus textile) like this one, a predator that hunts by spearing it’s prey with a harpoon that delivers a cocktail of neurotoxins that can be fatal even to humans. Scientists like Research Associate Mande Holford, though, are working to help turn those poisons into a new generation of medicines.

The set also includes a journal for recording notes from your beachcombing expeditions, as well as display box where you can keep your finds instead of hiding them away.

Tags: Shells